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Takeaways from the new Minnesota impeachment poll

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Steven Schier
KSTP Eyewitness news has just released a survey of Minnesota adults, conducted on Nov. 15 and 16, concerning President Donald Trump and the impeachment process.

To what extent can we trust the survey? It’s a survey of 600 adults with a margin of error of 5.1 percent for all adults and 5.8 percent for that subset of 444 adults who have followed the impeachment hearings – pretty large by survey standards.

That means the reported percentages may vary from the Minnesota adult population by up to 5.1 or 5.8 percent in either direction. Differences in question responses by 10.2 or 11.6 percent or higher are the findings about which we can be confident at the 95 percent level. Narrower differences are more suspect, falling below that 95 percent confidence level. Did they survey cellphones? That information is not disclosed in the polling report.

The survey has what seems a reasonable partisan balance – 28 percent GOPers and Independents and 33 percent Democrats. The regional balance also appears representative, with 61 percent of respondents from the metro area and 39 percent from Greater Minnesota.

Given all that, what patterns are most striking in the results?

Unpopular Trump. The survey asks respondents their opinion of Trump. Only 31 percent rate him favorably, one of the lowest levels of approval any Minnesota survey has revealed. The president is deep under water in urban Minnesota (29 percent approval) and the suburbs (28 percent approval but fares a bit better in rural areas (36 percent approval).

Keep in mind, however, that the question does not ask about the president’s job approval – it’s focused more on approval of Trump the person. Some Minnesotans probably dislike him personally but approve of the job he is doing and may well vote for him next November. Enough people with those views did that in 2016 to put him in the White House.

Modest interest in impeachment hearings. Forty-two percent of Minnesota adults have watched some or all of the hearings, but 26 percent have seen no media coverage, including 7 percent who didn’t know the hearings were under way. Those more attuned to the hearings are a disproportionately Democratic group. Fifty-two percent of Democrats have watched some or all of the hearings but only 40 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Independents.

The “hearings attention gap.” Those watching the hearings are much more inclined to believe enough evidence exits to support Trump’s impeachment. Forty-six percent of those who have watched all the hearings and 55 percent of those watching some of the hearings say so, but only 35 percent of adults who have not watched the hearings.

So Democrats have had some success in presenting evidence against Trump during the hearings, though that impact exists with a disproportionately Democratic audience. Note also that the hearings audience subset of the sample includes only 444 respondents, with a high error margin of 5.8 percent.

Impeach and convict. Support for these actions against Trump rests in the 40th percentiles, very much in line with broader national surveys. Forty-five percent of adults think evidence now exists meriting Trump’s impeachment and 49 percent support a Senate conviction of Trump. But the partisan divide on these items is vast. GOP support for either action rests in the single digits while Democratic support rises above 70 percent for both impeaching and convicting. Independents reside in the middle, with support for either actions in the 40s.

Grain of salt. It’s difficult to draw long-term conclusions from this survey. Much has yet to happen before Election Day 2020. There are the House floor votes, a possibly lengthy Senate trial and probable Trump acquittal by the GOP Senate.

The national media has “primed” the public to view impeachment as a top issue, but will it remain so later in 2020? By then we’ll have had the campaign, debates, and the comparative choice between Trump and an as-yet-unknown Democratic nominee. So this survey may well be a snapshot that quickly fades with time.

Steven Schier is Congdon Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.


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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 11/19/2019 - 03:58 pm.

    I trust hopeful Democrats do not place a lot of trust in KSTP/USA polling. The station released a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll Oct. 26, 2016 showing Hillary Clinton with a 10 point lead in Minnesota. Oops. An AP/GfK poll 12 days before the election showed Clinton would win the national vote 51-37. Another big oops.

    Republicans really, really enjoy making media organizations look very, very stupid.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/19/2019 - 04:25 pm.

      So Trump’s poor ratings are the product of a massive conspiracy by his supporters who give false answers to make the media look bad?

      That sounds pretty complex for a crowd who could screw up a two-car funeral. On the other hand, it would be utterly pointless, so I can see the appeal there.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/19/2019 - 04:48 pm.

    “…a snapshot that quickly fades with time…” seems an appropriate way to view the poll results. If this were late September, 2020, I’d pay more attention to them.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/19/2019 - 05:46 pm.

    The point about Trump supporters not wanting to watch the proceedings, rings a lot of what I’ll call common sense. No one wants to watch their team get beat, no one wants to have I told you so (he is as corrupt as they come) shoved down their throat/into their face. Easier to ignore or call it all circus than to face the facts. The old adage continues to hold true; “The truth she hurts!”

  4. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 11/20/2019 - 08:02 am.

    I have listened to the hearings while I work. While I find those interviewed to be credible, insofar as they believe what they are saying, my takeaway from the proceedings thus far has been less about Trump, and more that Republicans and Democrats agree, Russia is our great enemy, Russia is aggressive, Russia invaded Ukraine and we have to kick them out.

    In other words, these upstanding public servants have a Cold War hangover, we have pushed NATO to the edge of Russia despite promises we wouldn’t, we perpetrated a covert regime change coup in Ukraine, Russian-speaking Crimea voted to join Russia, Russian speakers in east Ukraine were attacked by Western Ukraine forces before Russia stepped in – but the facts don’t matter when it comes to the Crown Jewel of regime change (Russia) and American imperial (aggressive) foreign policy.

    Never mind this is a show trial, one-sided mostly, with predictable partisan results. Antagonizing Russia is the point, getting the American people on board with ratcheting up hostilities against Russia is the point, controlling Russia is the point, and getting a President installed here in America who supports that is the point.

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 11/20/2019 - 02:05 pm.

      Wow, your analysis is exactly the opposite of what many are seeing.
      Devin Numes keeps pushing a Russian backed conspiracy theory were it was the Ukraine that hacked the DNC with them being complicit.
      While the consensus in the American intelligence community, as well as that of our allies, is that it was the Russians who hacked into Democratic emails and had them distributed. The president and the Republican Party are spreading this counter-narrative blaming Ukraine — a narrative allegedly planted by Russian agents — as a green light to Russia to interfere in the 2020 election.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 11/21/2019 - 08:26 am.

        Yes, the Repub narrative looks to me like as much BS as the Dem narrative. Because Russia is the boogeyman to distract the American citizenry from corruption in our own country. Listen closely and talk of how these congresspersons view Russia – particularly about oligarchs and foreign aggression – is precisely how most Americans view our own government/war machine and corporations and banks and billionaires.

        There are plenty of people making the same connection I am, but we arent allowed to write for WaPo, NYT, MPR, FOX or Minnpost.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2019 - 01:13 pm.

    I’m not sure how large the audience for this impeachment is going to be. I wouldn’t expect a lot of viewers frankly.

    The Trump base (+/- 30%) isn’t going to watch. The rest of us may not watch because we don’t think we need to. We know what’s going to happen and we can read about the details and surprises as they emerge, there’s no reason to watch.

    Trump’s unpopularity may be more decisive that some imagine. You have to remember that Trump’s election was NEVER a reflection of HIS popularity as much as was a reaction to HRC’s unpopularity.

    Taken by itself we see that Trump is quite unpopular, but that unpopularity only finds context when it’s compared to another candidate. With any luck the next Democratic candidate won’t compete with Trump for unpopularity but will actually be a lot MORE popular. In that case, those the numbers of those who don’t like Trump but voted for him anyways may rendered irrelevant or even switch.

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 11/21/2019 - 09:24 am.

      True, Clinton was not very likable or compelling, but she was obviously qualified and Trump was clearly not. Nonetheless, it was as if a sizable number of voters passed on a serving of broccoli and instead chose a mud pie with sewage gravy, just because they didn’t like broccoli. Let’s hope for more palatable choices on the menu in 2020.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/21/2019 - 06:27 pm.

    I’m a little ashamed that I have not read all the thousands of pages of transcribed testimony in depositions before the House Select Committee on Intelligence. But I have watched every inch of the televised hearings.

    [I usually stop listening when Rep. Jim Jordan starts yelling at whoever the witness is; he’s a total BORE.]

    It’s a cross between a John Le Carre spy novel and a government expose documentary: Riveting, if you’re into how “fact witnesses” add something solid to a congressional inquiry.

    Here’s the deal, on facts presented in five very long days of testimony: President Trump abused the power of his office when he set up a scheme to require Ukraine to announce publicly that they were investigating Trump’s political rival in 2020, and find ways to exonerate Russia from helping him win in 2016, if Ukraine’s new president wanted the important White House visit with Trump and almost $400 million in Congressionally-appropriated defense money in Ukraine’s “hot war” defense against Russia. Trump almost demolished our bi-partisan foreign policy concerning Ukraine since 1990.

    No one can dispute the facts: Trump [illegally] used the power of the U. S purse to further his own political campaign interests. Period.

    The only question left? Interpretation of those facts.

    I think the facts make Trump impeachable, especially when contextualized with Articles of Impeachment about Trump’s systematic obstruction of Congress. Trump has acted like some Russia mafia oligarch or NYC-Las Vegas Italian mob boss. Not a president.

    I also know the Republican party is bankrupt morally and civically, so the Senate will not convict Trump. Doesn’t matter: History will show what an abysmal president he’s been.

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 11/21/2019 - 11:11 pm.

    We have a criminal living in the White House…

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